Charles Lahr's "Progressive Bookshop"
The independent bookshop is one of the central institutions of modernism: It is the material site around which apparently nebulous networks of influence and promotion cohere; it is a confined space of political, intellectual, and artistic ferment; and it is often the means through which literature is transmitted into its material printed form. This paper will place Charles Lahr's Progressive Bookshop (1921-1941) at the heart of a literary and leftist community in 1930s London. Lahr's shop catered to a community of writers who are not as well known as their contemporaries, but who contributed a wide array of literature to the period. Writers like Rhys Davies, James Hanley, Liam O'Flaherty, Rupert Croft-Cooke, and many others owe a great debt to Lahr and the influence of his shop. Lahr himself was a German ex-patriot married to an East-End Jew, an anarchist businessman, and a patron-of-the-arts on a shoe-string budget. He embodies the artistic, political, and economic context of the 1930s, and his cramped and dusty shop illuminates the production of literary culture between the wars.
Keywords: Bookshops, Literary Networks, Publishing, Printing
Assistant Professor, Department of English, The Royal Military College of Canada